Chandini Chowk- Timeless Lure
A man holds up a fake chandelier the size of 40feet, and that is the entrance to Bhagirath Palace known for its unique down to earth prices for exotic lampshades. A nearby lane showcases a variety of electronics, locks, phones, rotating fans etc; if you are indeed looking for a steal this is the market to visit!
Anyone who walks these crowded streets opposite Jama Masjid in Old Delhi could be forgiven for doing a double take. On the right side of the road is this gigantic monumental pride of India the Red Fort, and on the left side is this manic, crowded, teeming with boundless energy in its tiny streets and shops offering bargain deals.
Here you see aam janta rubbing shoulders with the sophisticates, realism & practicality rubbing shoulders with urbane energy. All hunting for great bargains. I even saw a shop displaying stacks of paper money – fake dollars, euros and rupees—to attract customers:)
Just before Chandini Chowk we passed by a street named Daryaganj , where most items for sale on this block, were either ‘seconds’ or stolen. It was indeed a Sunday flea market that had families with limited spending power come out in hordes to shop.
Walk down the traditional street of CC, and the smell of food (samosas, kachoris, bhatura channa and jalebis) overwhelms the exhaust fumes from the car and motorbike traffic jockeying for space with the rickshaws and the ubiquitous human driven bicycle taxis. All cursing each other with the harsh sun beating down the weary traveler and the shopper alike.
These quaint streets didn't even consist of streets in the initial times, but were more a collection of little communities, separated from each other by gates and bamboo hedges, according to the book "Old Delhi -- Streets of Chandini Chowk". Over time urbanization and development have given rise to many road blockades and one way streets or no way street as the case maybe, to avoid humans being trampled. Humans jostle with each other, with non existent pavements and black smoke laden traffic, to find some space to exist!
From streets devoted to grains, bottles, charcoal, paint, to todays streets – that sell herbs, dry fruits, antique silver and gold to fancy clothing and wedding attire, to silk and paintings and statues and glassware, you will find everything you need here, provided you have the patience for crowds and no fuss attitude.
Enterprising merchants have started repairing and selling computers in here. The car driver educated us on the advantages of trading old laptops for new machines in this street! I did see a young man bring in his aging IBM ThinkPad where one of the screen's hinges had snapped in half. He was asked to leave behind his Thinkpad for 4 days as the shopkeeper had to wait for parts to arrive, but the deal was struck for a mere Rs 200/- So much for laptops being too expensive to be repaired!
Chandini Chowks popularity has soared once again with movies being themed around this locale & fashionistas making it trendy to visit. The real estate has soared in value here. The shop owners who live above their stores wouldn't consider any other sort of life. They like the ease of stepping out on the street buying whatever they need, talking with friends over walls, and hate the concept of shifting out of here into apartments in other localities as that would mean no meeting neighbors for days together!
The flip side to this pride of community is when you glance upwards you tend to see a lot of loosely hung cables which looked alarming, reflecting utter neglect and callousness. Thickly congested roads and intense traffic pollution could not be conducive to health. To my mind this is indeed a heavy price to pay for a flourishing business.
What would I wish for to change in this bustling street? Actually, not much. Chandini Chowk derives its character from the myriad things sold, the myriad diversity of people and languages that merge here…I only wish for an enchanting body of water surrounded by trees and featuring some quiet and peace. This should allow the weary shopper and the traveler alike some lung space, to catch ones breath and resume the feverish journey with gusto again.
Posted by Mee at 00:46